SOM Dean's Letter

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Winter 2018-19

Vikas P. Sukhatme, MD, ScD

Breakthrough ideas happen when different disciplines come together and think creatively to solve common problems. To encourage these connections and accelerate the pace of discovery, the SOM Imagine, Innovate and Impact Awards were launched in August. The response to our request for proposals far exceeded expectations, with 62 proposals submitted for research awards, and 16 for education awards. These 78 proposals represented PIs from 26 departments. We are pleased to award a total of $595,000. 

A second round of I3 Awards, called the Synergy II/Nexus Awards, is currently underway in collaboration with the Woodruff Health Sciences Center, the Office of the Provost, and Emory College of Arts and Sciences. The deadline for proposals is January 15, 2019. We look forward to seeing even more high-quality ideas in this round.

With thanks to the more than 60 reviewers who submitted 300+ individual peer reviews, we congratulate the following awardees, and look forward to celebrating the outcomes of your work.

I3 Wow! Research Awards

  • Discovery of Small Molecule Anticancer Immunomodulators: Haian Fu (pharmacology)

  • Mechanisms of Lactococcus-mediated Dampening of Gut, Liver and Cardiac Inflammation: Rheinallt Jones (pediatrics)

  • A Randomized Controlled Trial of Fecal Microbiota Transplant for Antibiotic-Resistant Infections in Inpatients: Colleen Kraft (pathology and laboratory medicine, medicine)

  • Targeting Oncogenic MET Fusions in Pediatric High-grade Gliomas: Renee Read (pharmacology)

  • Patient-Specific Cardiovascular Regenerative Medicine Using 3D Bioprinting and Photon-Counting Computed Tomography: Vahid Serpooshan (biomedical engineering, pediatrics)

  • Understanding Mechanisms of Individual Variation in Antidepressant Response for Precision Medicine: Zhexing Wen (psychiatry and behavioral sciences)

  • Generation of Clinically Applicable Endothelial Cells Derived from Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells: Young-sup Yoon (medicine)

I3 Education Awards

  • A Virtual, Global, Interprofessional Community of Practice: Feasibility and Effectiveness at Developing Innovative Behavioral Health Educators: Nadine Kaslow (psychiatry and behavioral sciences)

  • A Mixed Methods Evaluation of Emory University SOM Global Health Residents Scholar Program: Engaging Ethiopian Colleagues to Enhance our Partnership: Russell Kempker (medicine)

  • Development and Validation of a 3-Dimensional Upper Aerodigestive Tract Endoscopy Training Simulator: Adam Klein (otolaryngology)

  • Developing a Telemedicine Curriculum for Nephrology Fellows: Expanding Specialty Care to Underserved Populations in Rural Settings: Janice Lea (medicine)

  • The Emory Brain Share Project: Utilizing Online Interactive Teaching to Train the First Generation of Rwandan Neuropsychologists: Suzanne Penna (rehabilitation medicine)

  • Infectious Diseases in Immunocompromised Hosts: A Comprehensive Multi-Disciplinary Curriculum: Varun Phadke (medicine)

  • The Clinical Perspectives in Global Health Course: An Interprofessional Approach to Medical Education: Parminder Suchdev (pediatrics)

  • Professional Identity Formation as a Construct for a Medical School Curriculum on Race, Bias, and Privilege: Joshua Wallenstein (emergency medicine)
Experts in diversity, equity and inclusion meet with SOM leaders on Dec. 7. L to R: James E. Page, Jr. (Vanderbilt University), Yolanda Hood, John P. Horton (gynecology and obstetrics), William Eley, Eloiza Domingo-Snyder (Alzani Consulting Solutions), Sheryl Heron (emergency medicine), Monroe "Bud" Moseley (Isaacson, Miller), Marilane Bond, Del King, Cliff Teague

Search Underway for SOM Diversity and Inclusion Officer

Earlier this year, Emory celebrated an incoming medical student class that is the most diverse in our history. This is a milestone achievement, and we are proud of the work that enabled it. Over the past two years, through the efforts of the SOM’s Executive Committee on Organizational Equity and Inclusion and dedicated champions across the SOM, we have taken significant steps toward a diverse, equitable and inclusive environment. While we are proud of our accomplishments to date, we know that there is still much work to be done.

As we continue on this journey, we are kicking off a national search for a Diversity and Inclusion Officer. Based on a distinguished track record of similar leadership placements at our peer institutions, executive search firm Isaacson, Miller has been selected to lead the recruitment effort. We also continue to seek input and guidance from other experienced leaders in this field as we work to not only find the right candidate, but to ensure that we are evaluating our current structure and the support necessary to position this future leader for success.

On December 7, we were pleased to host a team of experts from Isaacson, Miller, Vanderbilt University and Alzani Consulting Solutions, a leader in diversity and inclusion. The team spent a day meeting with leaders across the SOM, challenging us to think deeply about both our current state and our future as a school. We look forward to keeping you updated over the next several months on the outcomes of this important process.

The Fragile X Files Explained

The gene responsible for fragile X syndrome, the most common inherited form of intellectual disability, was identified more than 25 years ago. Emory genetics chair Stephen Warren played a major role in achieving that milestone. His work led to insights into the molecular details of learning and memory, and nationwide clinical trials — which have a more complicated story.

Working with Warren, Amy Talboy and others at Emory, medical illustrator Michael Konomos has assembled an iBook – available free through Apple iTunes – introducing medical students to the science of fragile X and its history using multimedia. This summer, the iBook won an “Award of Merit” from the Association of Medical Illustrators in the Interactive Textbook category. It contains video interviews with Warren and Talboy, along with animated depictions of how the molecules involved in fragile X syndrome lead to differences in learning and behavior.

Read more

Launch of Center for Affordable Medical Innovation

In the current market, medical innovation is often driven by potential profitability. Inexpensive treatment ideas often remain unexplored because financial incentives are not sufficient to offset the research investment needed to bring them to market. To address this gap and help promote affordable new treatments, the Woodruff Health Sciences Center is establishing a Center for Affordable Medical Innovation. The Center will focus initially on drugs already approved by the Food and Drug Administration that could be repurposed for cancer use.

The Center will leverage and expand the model created by GlobalCures, Inc., a not-for-profit medical research organization co-founded by Dean Sukhatme, that aims to promote clinical research on scientifically promising, readily available, and cost-effective treatments for cancer and other diseases.

The Center for Affordable Medical Innovation’s focus will eventually expand beyond cancer and into diagnostics, devices, and health care delivery systems—all with a focus on affordability. Early goals of the center include: 

  • Developing a database of opportunities searchable by disease, drug, or mechanism of action
  • Establishing a scientific framework for prioritizing efforts
  • Conducting preclinical studies to move existing studies to clinical trial
  • Designing and conducting clinical trials to validate ideas

To support these efforts, the center is actively recruiting a program director and a part-time scientific/clinical director. Interested applicants should check Emory Careers

From Clinic to Kitchen

Brittany Whitlock shows off the final dish for Case 1.

From Clinic to Kitchen: An Introduction to Culinary Medicine is a new second year elective course that focuses on nutrition education and counseling and also gives students the skills to purchase, cook and prepare healthy meals. Led by Emily Herndon (family medicine), Javier Valle (preventive medicine), and representatives from student health, campus life and Emory College, 10 M2 students met weekly this semester at the Few Hall Teaching Kitchen on Emory’s main campus. Each week, students were assigned a patient whose medical conditions could be improved with dietary changes. Students researched the appropriate nutritional needs for that patient, based not only on the patient’s disease, but also their eating habits and socioeconomic status. Each student then proposed a healthy meal with specific recipes and associated costs for comparison and critique by the entire group. Finally, the nutritionist and culinary expert gave their recommendation for a healthy meal, which the group then prepared together.

Students have reacted positively to the pilot project and state that not only do they feel more comfortable counseling patients about diet, but they are also learning hands-on culinary skills and adding healthy new foods to their own menus. 


The Learning Fields

Emory is home to two successful migrant health programs. Both can be life-changing for students and farmworkers alike. See how students in the School of Nursing and the School of Medicine's Physician Assistant Program find life-changing experiences in the fields.

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Rafi Ahmed (microbiology and immunology) was named by the National Academy of Inventors (NAI) as an NAI 2018 Fellow. Ahmed is a world-renowned virologist and immunologist whose work has been highly influential in shaping current understanding of immune memory, with the long-term goal of developing new vaccines and other strategies for prevention and treatment of disease.

Lisa M. Carlson, executive administrator of research programs and operations in the SOM and affiliated instructor at the Rollins School of Public Health, was named president-elect of the American Public Health Association on Nov. 13, 2018. Her election was announced during APHA’s annual meeting in San Diego.

Criss Hartzell (cell biology, physiology and pharmacology) was named a 2018 Fellow by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Hartzell is recognized for distinguished contributions to the field of ion channel biology, particularly for the structure-function and physiology of calcium channels and calcium-activated chloride channels.

Michael J. Kuhar (pharmacology) was named a 2018 Fellow by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has many awards and prizes for his contributions in neuropharmacology and neuroscience focused on the cellular and anatomical basis of addiction.

Andrew J. Patterson was appointed chair of the Department of Anesthesiology, effective Jan. 1, 2019. Patterson currently serves as the Larson Professor and executive vice chair of anesthesiology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. 

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